Job Management with SMS Mobile Messaging

Job Management, invoicing/billing with Sage integration, auto mobile/fax integration

Rode Haulage provides transport services primarily to agricultural sector businesses. They manage a fleet of company vehicles, as well as drivers/sub-contractors who use their own vehicles. The company needed a database for managing jobs, allocating loads to drivers, as well as handling their complex invoicing system. The most recent requirement was for an SMS server application for sending bulk text messages from multiple work stations.

The Problem

Our client had bought a job management software package from a "specialist" supplier, paying extra for specified adaptations. This proved expensive, plus the company took a long time to deliver the modifications. When the software eventually arrived it did not work as specified by our client, causing frustration and wasting staff time.
Rode Haulage had been using spreadsheets to allocate daily jobs for many years. Our client was happy with this method, but wanted extra functionality. In particular he needed a system that could handle the billing complexities associated with his business.

A supplier's invoice might contain a number of deliveries from different jobs, and similarly a job might have used many different suppliers. A number of drivers require self-billing, whereby our client raises invoices on behalf of the driver. As a "middle man" he had to ensure that the rate charged to the client covered the rate paid to his own drivers and/or to his sub-contractors.

Monitoring the status of each job is equally important, as these can be on-going over a period of time or repeat deliveries on a regular basis. Customers are likely to have a number of jobs running concurrently at various stages of completion/invoicing. Our client required an easy way of tracking this.
For further efficiency our client wanted to integrate SMS messaging and fax sending for confirming the day's job list to drivers and subcontractors. In addition, he required the export of sales and purchase invoices to Sage.

The Solution

We developed "inRode", a bespoke database that manages all aspects of Rode Haulage's business, complimenting the way they operate. We focused first on the Job Management System. In the second phase we added custom invoicing which incorporated integration with Sage. The most recent addition was to integrate an SMS mobile messaging to send text messages to drivers with details of the day's deliveries.

Both the new Job Management database and old spreadsheet systems run seamlessly in tandem, while the latter is gradually phased out. Either system can be used, which helps manage this process, since staff can continue working in a familiar way as they gradually move over to the new system.

Existing jobs are automatically imported from the existing Excel spread sheets. New jobs are now easily created within the new database. Jobs are allocated to drivers simply and easily, handling multiple loads as well as on-going jobs.

Invoicing: To make it easy for staff to reconcile outgoing and incoming invoices for each job, we provided two separate screens for billing. The system can also handle different billing cycles

One screen is filtered to view customers, their jobs, and associated suppliers for each delivery within the job. When invoicing each customer, staff can easily identify completed deliveries that have not yet been invoiced, and select the ones to be included on the invoice. Then at the click of a button, an invoice is automatically generated with all records updated accordingly.

The other screen is from the view point of their suppliers. This shows all deliveries a supplier has made over a given period, together with their invoice status. Some suppliers will send invoices to Rode Haulage, billing by time and/or by load. This screen allows staff to quickly identify all deliveries covered by the incoming invoice, and check these off, ensuring each delivery is billed correctly. Other suppliers are "self-billed". Staff find all loads outstanding for a driver, check these against timesheets provided by that driver, then raise an invoice on behalf of the supplier.

In addition, staff can track the status of each job through a different screen, showing all associated loads with their status (from awaiting delivery to invoiced). A job is marked as complete when all loads have been invoiced (both outgoing and incoming).

Sage Integration: For integration with his accountancy software, we provided a managed facility for exporting into Sage.
Auto Text Messaging: In the third phase, we developed a text message SMS server application. As the telephone numbers for drivers were already held on the client's database, we were able to incorporate this functionality into his existing software quickly and easily. A cheap mobile phone is plugged into the server, and at the click of a button an SMS text message is built dynamically and sent to each driver. The application is networked for multiple users.

The client had previously used a considerably more expensive SMS service provided by a telecommunications company. As text messages can be sent cheaply, the small outlay for development was recouped very quickly

inRode has subsequently been extended to allow messages to be sent by fax to suppliers at the click of a button .

In 2006 we invited a software company to tender for a new software package. Simply, the brief was to expedite data via a haulage instruction, generate invoices and export to SAGE.

This actually took “Eighteen months” to complete with plenty of bugs and errors along the way! We expected problems, you always do, but nothing prepared us for that journey!

Eventually we had a product yet still failed to complete our requirement effectively. Our problems then started when their company went into liquidation just before a VAT change, rendering our software useless!

My co director was already a customer of PC Access some years previously and had been extremely happy with the software package that had been designed and written for his other business “Fussell Farms”

I invited Tony for a site visit, he discussed our current requirements with all of our office team and together in less than one month PC Access delivered a robust software solution for considerably less money than we originally spent, and in a fraction of the time.

I can only conclude, we really should have had PC Access as our first and only choice.

Dick Cousins – Director - Rode Haulage Ltd